How do you attract tourists from the Canadian side of the falls and get them to stay on the New York side?
It's a decades-old question that the fledgling Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp. is spending $1 million on to find the answer to.
The agency launched an advertising campaign Wednesday to sell this side of the falls. It has hired the Baltimore-based national advertising company TBC to hit an estimated 25 million people from Pittsburgh to Toronto and from Syracuse to Cleveland with a barrage of radio, newspaper and online advertising spots between now and mid-November.
The ads will hammer home the message: "Niagara U.S.A., a great American getaway."
It's the first push by the nonprofit tourism agency since consolidating the city's Convention & Visitors Bureau and the county's Tourism Department a year ago.
David Rosenwasser, the agency's president, said the advertising campaign is critically important to the future of the city and county.
"We're currently competing with tourist destinations that are outspending us at least 4-to-1," he said, referring in part to the ever booming Niagara Falls, Ont.
The tourism industry on this side of the Niagara River received a jump-start with the opening of the Seneca Niagara Casino more than a year ago and has experienced steady, albeit modest, growth ever since, Rosenwasser said.
"We anticipate the marketing campaign will boost continued growth and that 10 years from now Niagara Falls, N.Y., will be a competely different city."
The ad campaign was unveiled before a Conference Center auditorium audience of more than 100 stakeholders in the local tourism industry, including hotel and motel owners, attraction operators and elected officials.
"This is something we've been waiting a long time for," said Galeb Rizeh, who owns the EconoLodge on Niagara Falls Boulevard. "But to back up the marketing, we need more family-oriented attractions."
The campaign will try to fill the bill with inducements that will include hiking junkets, winery tours and bed & breakfast deals.
The focus of the campaign will be mid-income American and Canadian families within a four- to six-hour drive from the falls, said Sandy Hillman, TBC's chief executive officer.
Tourism officials here want to change the mind-set among visitors that Niagara is a day trip and not an overnight destination. They particularly want to target tourists who have visited the falls but haven't considered staying on the American side.
"We have to overcome negativism on the part of some people," said Hillman. "We want them to think that one afternoon isn't enough time to see and do all Niagara has to offer."
The Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp. is funded by countywide hotel and motel bed taxes and a share of the Seneca Niagara Casino profits, all of the latter to be spent on marketing the city.